Object-oriented programming in PHP

Object-oriented programming is a Programming Paradigm versatilely applied in extbase and the extensions built on it. In this section we will give an overview of the basic concepts of Object Orientation.

Programs have a certain purpose which is, generally speaking, to solve a problem. "Problem" does not necessarily mean error or defect but rather an actual task. This Problem usually has a concrete counterpart in real life.

A Program could for example take care of the task of booking a cruise in the Indian Ocean. If so we obviously have a problem (a programmer that has been working too much and finally decided to go on vacation) and a program promising recuperation by booking a coach on one of the luxury liners for him and his wife.

Object Orientation assumes that a concrete problem is to be solved by a program and a concrete problem is caused by real Objects. Therefore focus is on the Object. This can be abstract of course: it will not be something as concrete as a car or a ship all the time but can also be a reservation, an account or a graphical symbol.

Objects are "containers" for data and corresponding functionality. The data of an object is stored in its Properties. The functionality is provided by Methods which can for example alter the Properties of the Object. In regard to the cruise liner we can say that it has a certain amount of coaches, a length and width and a maximum speed. Further it has Methods to start the motor (and hopefully to stop it again also), change the direction as well as to increase thrust so you can reach your holiday destination a bit faster.

Why Object Orientation after all?

Surely some users will ask themselves why they should develop object orientated in the first place. Why not (just like until now) keep on developing procedural thus stringing together functions. If we look at the roughly 4.300 extensions available for TYPO3 at the moment, we'll see that they are built with a class by default - but have been completed by the extension developer in a procedural way in about 95% of all cases. Procedural programming has some severe disadvantages though:

  • Properties and Methods belonging together with regard to content can't be united. This methodology, called Encapsulation in Object Orientation, is necessary if only for clear arrangement.
  • It is rather difficult to re-use code
  • All Properties can be altered everywhere throughout the code. This leads to hard-to-find errors.
  • Procedural code gets confusing easily. This is called Spaghetti code.

Furthermore Object Orientation mirrors the real world: Real Objects exist and they all have properties and (most of them) methods. This fact is now represented in programming.

In the following we'll talk about the object Ship. We'll invoke this object, stock it with coaches, a motor and other useful stuff. Furthermore there will be functions moving the ship thus turning the motor on and off. Later we'll even create a luxury liner based on the general ship and equip it with a golf simulator and satellite TV.

On the following pages we'll try to be as graphic as possible (but still semantically correct) to familiarize you with object orientation. There is a specific reason: The more you can identify with the Object and its Methods, the more open you'll be for the Theory behind Object Orientated Programming. Both are necessary for successful programming – even though you'll often not be able to imagine the objects you'll later work with as clearly as in our examples.

Classes and Objects

Let's now take a step back and imagine there's a blueprint for ships in general. We now focus not on the ship but this blueprint. It is called a Class, in this case it is the Class Ship. In PHP this is written as follows:


class Ship
   // …


In this piece of code note that we kept the necessary PHP tags at the beginning and end. We will spare them in the following examples to make the listings a bit shorter.

The key word class opens the Class and inside the curly brackets Properties and Methods are written. we'll now add these Properties and Methods:

class Ship {

   public $name;

   public $coaches;

   public $engineStatus;

   public $speed;

   function startEngine()


   function stopEngine()


   function moveTo($location)



Our ship now has a name ($name), a number of coaches ($coaches) and a speed ($speed). In addition we built in a variable containing the status of the engine ($engineStatus). A real ship, of course, has much more properties all important somehow – for our abstraction these few will be sufficient though. We'll focus on why every Property is marked with the key word public further down.


For Methods and Properties we use a notation called lowerCamelCase: The first letter is lower case and all other parts are added without blank or underscore in upper case. This is a convention used in extbase (as well as FLOW3).

We can also switch on the engine (startEngine()), travel with the ship to the desired destination (moveTo($location)) and switch off the engine again (stopEnginge()). Note that all Methods are empty, i.e. we have no content at all. We'll change this in the following examples, of course. The line containing the Method name and (if available) parameters is called the Method signature or method head. Everything contained by the Method is called the Method body accordingly.

Now we will finally create an Object from our Class. The Class ship will be the blueprint and $fidelio the concrete Object.

$fidelio = new Ship();

// Display the Object


The key word new is used to create a concrete Object from the Class. This Object is also called an Instance and the creation process consequentially Instantiation. We can use the command var_dump() to closely examine the object. We'll see the following:

object(Ship)#1 (3) {

   ["name"] => NULL

   ["coaches"] => NULL

   ["engineStatus"] => NULL

   ["speed"] => NULL


We can clearly see that our Object has 4 Properties with a concrete value, at the moment still NULL, for we did not yet assign anything. We can instantiate as many Objects from a class as we like and every single one will differ from the others – even if all of the Properties have the same values.

$fidelio1 = new Ship();
$fidelio2 = new Ship();

if ($fidelio1 === $fidelio2) {
   echo 'Objects are identical!'

} else {
   echo 'Objects are not identical!'

In this example the output is Objects are not identical!

The arrow operator

We are able to create an Object now but of course it's Properties are still empty. We'll hurry to change this by assigning values to the Properties. For this we use a special operator, the so called arrow operator (->). We can use it for getting access to the properties of an Object or calling Methods. In the following example we set the name of the ship and call some Methods:

$ship = new Ship();

$ship->name = 'FIDELIO';

echo 'The ship's Name is ' . $ship->name;





Using the arrow operator we can now comfortably access Properties and Methods of an Object. But what if we want to do this from inside a Method, e.g. to set $speed inside of the Method startEngine()? We don't know at this point what an object to be instantiated later will be called. So we need a mechanism to do this independent from the name. This is done with the special variable $this.

class Ship
   // …

   public $speed;

   // …

   function startEngine()
      $this->speed = 200;

With $this->speed you can access the Property "speed" in the actual Object independently of it's name.


It can be very useful to initialize an Object at the Moment of instantiating it. Surely there will be a certain number of coaches built in right away when a new cruise liner is created - so that the future guest will not be forced to sleep in emergency accommodation. So we can define the number of coaches right when instantiating. The processing of the given value is done in a Method automatically called on creation of an Object, the so called Constructor. This special Method always has the name __construct() (the first two characters are underscores).

The values received from instantiating are now passed on to the constructor as Argument and then assigned to the Properties $coaches and $name respectively.

<remark>TODO: Enter Code</remark>

Inheritance of Classes

With the class we created we can already do a lot. We can create many ships and send them to the oceans of the world. But of course the shipping company always works on improving the offer of cruise liners. Increasingly big and beautiful ships are built. Also new offers for the passengers are added. FIDELIO2, for example, even has a little golf course based on deck.

If we look behind the curtain of this new luxury liner though, we find that the shipping company only took a ship type FIDELIO and altered it a bit. The basis is the same. Therefore it makes no sense to completely redefine the new ship – instead we use the old definition and just add the golf course – just as the shipping company did. Technically speaking we extend an "old" Class definition by using the key word extends.

class LuxuryLiner extends Ship

   public $luxuryCoaches;

   function golfSimulatorStart()
      echo 'Golf simulator on ship ' . $this->name . '

   function golfSimulatorStop() {
      echo 'Golf simulator on ship ' . $this->name . '

$luxuryShip = new LuxuryLiner('FIDELIO2','600')

Our new luxury liner comes into existence as easy as that. We define that the luxury liner just extends the Definition of the class Ship. The extended class (in our example Ship) is called the parent class or superclass. The class formed by Extension (in our example LuxuryLiner) is called the child class or sub class.

The class LuxuryLiner now contains the complete configuration of the base class Ship (including all Properties and Methods) and defines additional Properties (like the amount of luxury coaches in $luxuryCoaches) and additional Methods (like golfSimulatorStart() and golfSimulatorStop()). Inside these Methods you can again access the Properties and Methods of the parent class by using $this.

Overriding Properties and Methods

Inside an inherited class you can not only access Properties and Methods of the parent class or define new ones. It's even possible to override the original Properties and Methods. This can be very useful, e.g. for giving a Method of a child class a new functionality. Let's have a look at the Method startEngine() for example:

<remark>TODO: Enter Code</remark>

Our luxury liner (of course) has an additional motor so this has to be switched on also if the Method startEngine() is called. The child class now overrides the Method of the parent class and so only the Method startEngine() of the child class is called.

Access to the parent class through "parent"

Overriding a Method comes in handy but has a serious disadvantage. When changing the Method startEngine() in the parent class, we'd also have to change the Method in the child class. This is not only a source for errors but also kind of inconvenient. It would be better to just call the Method of the parent class and then add additional code before or after the call. That's exactly what can be done by using the key word parent. With parent::methodname() <remark>TODO: "methodname" should be "emphasis" in addition to "classname". I did not get it, sorry!</remark> the Method of the parent class can be accessed comfortably - so our former example can be re-written in a smarter way:

<remark>TODO: Enter Code</remark>

Abstract classes

Sometimes it is useful to define "placeholder Methods" in the parent class which are filled in the child class. These "placeholders" are called abstract Methods. A class containing abstract Methods is called abstract Class. For our ship there could be a Method setupCoaches(). Each type of ship is to be handled differently for each has a proper configuration. So each ship must have such a Method but the concrete implementation is to be done separately for each ship type.

<remark>TODO: Enter Code</remark>

In the parent class we have defined only the body of the Method setupCoaches(). The key word abstract makes sure that the Method must be implemented in the child class. So using abstract classes we can define which Methods have to be present later without having to implement them right away.


Interfaces are a special case of abstract classes in which all Methods are abstract. Using Interfaces, specification and implementation of functionality can be kept apart. In our cruise example we have some ships supporting satellite TV and some who don't. The ships who do have the Methods enableTV() and disableTV(). It is useful to define an interface for that:

<remark>TODO: Enter Code</remark>

Using the key word implements it is made sure that the class implements the given interface. All Methods in the interface definition then have to be realized. The object LuxuryLiner now is of the type Ship but also of the type SatelliteTV. It is also possible to implement not only one interface class but multiple separated by comma. Of course interfaces can also be inherited by other interfaces.

Visibilities: public, private and protected

Access to Properties and Methods can be restricted by different visibilities to hide implementation details of a class. The meaning of a class can be communicated better like this, for implementation details in internal Methods can not be accessed from outside. The following visibilities exist:

  • public: Properties and Methods with this visibility can be accessed from outside the Object. If no Visibility is defined, the behavior of public is used.
  • protected: Properties and Methods with visibility protected can only be accessed from inside the class and it's child classes.
  • private: Properties and Methods set to private can only be accessed from inside the class itself, not from child classes.

Access to Properties

This small example demonstrates how to work with protected properties:

<remark>TODO: Enter Code</remark>

The LuxuryLiner may alter the property coaches, for this is protected. If it was private no access from inside of the child class would be possible. Access from outside of the hierarchy of inheritance (like in the last line of the example) is not possible. It would only be possible if the Property was public.

We recommend to define all Properties as protected. Like that they can not be altered any more from outside and you should use special Methods (called getter and setter) to alter or read them. We'll explain the use of these Methods in the following section.

Access to Methods

All Methods the Object makes available to the outside have to be defined as public. All Methods containing implementation details, e.g. setupCoaches() in the above example, should be defined as protected. The visibility private should be used most rarely, for it prevents Methods from being overwritten or extended.

Often you'll have to read or set Properties of an Object from outside. So you'll need special Methods that are able to set or get a property. These Methods are called setter respectively getter. See the example.

<remark>TODO: Enter Code</remark>

We now have a Method setCoaches() which sets the number of coaches. Furthermore it changes - depending on the number of coaches - the ship category. You now see the advantage: When using Methods to get and set the Properties, you can perform more complex operations, as e.g. setting of dependent Properties. This preserves consistency of the object. If you set $coaches and $classification to public, we could set the number of cabins to 1000 and classification to NORMAL - and our ship would end up being inconsistent.


In extbase you'll find getter and setter Methods all over. No Property in extbase is set to public.

Static Methods and Properties

Until now we worked with Objects instantiated from classes. Sometimes though it does not make sense to generate a complete object just to be able to use a function of a class. For this php offers the possibility to directly access Properties and Methods. These are then referred to as static Properties respectively static Methods. Take as a rule of thumb: static Properties are necessary every time two instances of a class are to have a common Property. Static Methods are often used for function libraries.

Transferred to our example this means that all ships are constructed by the same shipyard. In case of technical emergency all ships need to know the actual emergency phone number of this shipyard. So we save this number in a static Property $shipyardSupportTelephoneNumber:

<remark>TODO: Enter Code</remark>

What happens here? We instantiate two different ships which both have a problem and do contact the shipyard. Inside the method reportTechnicalProblem() you see that if you want to use static properties you have to trigger them with the key word self::. If the emergency phone number now changes, the shipyard has to tell all the ships about the new number. For this is uses the static method setShipyardSupportTelephoneNumber($newNumber). For the Method is static, it is called through the scheme classname::methodname() <remark>TODO: "methodname" should be "emphasis" in addition to "classname". I did not get it, sorry!</remark><remark></remark>, in our case LuxuryLiner::setShipyardSupportTelephoneNumber(...). If you check the latter two problem reports you see that all instances of the class use the new phone number. So both ship objects have access to the same static variable $shipyardSupportTelephoneNumber.

Important design- and architectural patterns

In software engineering you'll sooner or later stumble upon design problems that are connatural and solved in a similar way. Clever people thought about design patterns aiming to be a general solution to a problem. Each design pattern is so to speak a solution template for a specific problem. We by now have multiple design patterns that are successfully approved in practice and therefore have found there way in modern programming and especially extbase. In the following we don't want to focus on concrete implementation of the design patterns, for this knowledge is not necessary for the usage of extbase. Nevertheless deeper knowledge in design patterns in general is indispensable for modern programming style, so it might be fruitful for you to learn about them


Further information about design patterns can e.g. be found on <link linkend="???">http://sourcemaking.com/</link> or in the book PHP Design Patterns by Stephan Schmidt, published by O'Reilly.

From the big number of design patterns, we will have a closer look on two that are essential when programming with extbase: Singleton &amp; Prototype.


This design pattern makes sure that only one instance of a class can exist at a time. In TYPO3 you can mark a class as singleton by letting it implement the interface \TYPO3\CMS\Core\SingletonInterface. An example: our luxury liners are all constructed in the same shipyard. So there is no sense in having more than one instance of the shipyard object:

In order to have the singletons correctly created you have to use the ObjectManager


Prototype is sort of the antagonist to Singleton. While for each class only one object is instantiated when using Singleton, it is explicitly allowed to have multiple instances when using Prototype. Each class not implementing the Interface \TYPO3\CMS\Core\SingletonInterface automatically is of the type Prototype.


Originally for the design pattern Prototype is specified that a new Object is to be created by cloning an Object prototype. We use Prototype as counterpart to Singleton without a concrete pattern implementation in the background though. For the functionality we experience, this does not make any difference: We invariably get back a new instance of a class.

Now that we refreshed your knowledge of object oriented programming we can take a look at the deeper concepts of extbase: Domain Driven Design, Model View Controller and Test Driven Development. You'll spot the basics we just talked about in the following frequently.